Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

MADDENED by the scent of blood in its nostrils, the anti-hunting lobby is in full cry, rabid to hunt down every last one of its opponents. The ancients would have been baffled by this display of mindless bloodlust.

For the Greeks, Artemis was goddess of wild things and a huntress herself. To hunt, then, was to worship Artemis. The soldier and writer Xenophon (c. 428-354 Be) describes how he established a festival for Artemis on his estate. He invited the locals to join in a communal hunt, and offered a tenth of the bag in sacrifice to the goddess.

In his treatise On Hunting, Xenophon describes how hunters rode to the hunting ground but the hunting itself was carried out on foot. The dangerous and destructive boar was a popular target, as were hares (these were a favourite present for a hunter to give to his young male beloved). But Xenophon is careful to justify this aristocratic occupation. He cites a long list of heroes who through hunting `were admired for their virtue' and argues that such men made Greece invincible. As a result, he urges the young to take up `hunting and other forms of education. These will make them good in war and in every other activity that will inevitably result in excellence in thought, word and deed. …

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